I feel that I have had a lifetime of preparation for working with Rising Star Outreach.  I was born with a congenital amputation of my right arm just below the elbow.  It has never really bothered me even though I knew I was different from others.  People would stare and point and sometime they would cry and run away in fear. Others pretended not to notice or even approached in curiosity.  It was because I was different from so many. It wasn’t a big deal, it was just the way it was.

I remember when I would have to do reports for health or science classes, I was always drawn to leprosy. In my ignorance, I did not know it was still an issue as I always saw it as a disease from the movie Ten Commandments and other biblical stories. I even used it sarcastically to describe myself. It took years for me to finally understand more about the disease and those that suffer from it.

Callie and Julie

Julie Domm, my best friend and roommate at the time, attended a speaking engagement done by Becky Douglas.  Julie was so moved that she sponsored a child.  I remember when the Christmas ornament with little Hari’s picture came and we hung it on the tree.  A few short months later she had the desire to serve in India. Within days she was making arrangements to quit her job and move to India for 6 months!  I was so proud of her, she was so brave.  A video documentary was sent from the office and we watched it together, I was fascinated and troubled all at the same time.

There was a comment in the video that hit me, “they are untouchable.”  Untouchable… that was a powerful word for me.  People have always been fascinated or afraid of me, which often left me – untouched. I didn’t realize this was different until I had a set of roommates in college that were so loving and were always touching me and hugging me, it changed me.

Rani and Callie

Saroja and Callie

When I heard that there was an entire population, over 700 colonies of people that were left with feeling that they were “untouchable”, “unclean”, “cursed from God” I knew I couldn’t stand by and let people feel that alone and unwanted. It became my mission to love them, what I did not expect was the love they gave me, the acceptance and the concern they showed me in the colonies.  Often they were confused at why this American girl was missing a limb like to many of them, they cried and blessed me and hugged me and took me to meet their family.  I helped them with their shoes and walked them home, hugging and touching them and showing them the love they deserve.  They are the reason that I work with Rising Star Outreach and that I care so much about what I do.  A person suffering whether they are in my country or another is a person suffering.  I want to be a person that will help another in need and through Rising Star Outreach and because of my friend Julie, I can be that person everyday.

Callie and Miskin from Villivakkam

Callie and Panasamy (the Barber)

A hug from Thiyagarajan

Before I left for India my Mom said something I will never forget, “Callie, I am afraid for you to go, but I am more afraid of you not going.” She knew that I needed this experience and that it would forever change my path.

When I take pictures of out patients and students and I see the love, trust and hope in their eyes I know that we have done something right. Their smiles, successes, and hard work make every sacrifice worth it. I am blessed to be with Rising Star Outreach and I am forever changed by our patients and students and staff that work so hard every day.  I believe our volunteer theme for the year  – Together we are more!

–Callie Reagan
Director of Programs and Outreach

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